I'm an engineering major. You can make it as hard or easy as you want by the difficulty of courses you take. Engineering majors mostly do not have the freedom to take 'fun' classes, and will spent many more hours in the library than A&S students. It is worth it. This education is technical but more about teaching you the tools you need to problem-solve, be creative, potentially start your own company, and be successful. SCU students are valued as highly employable graduates.
Academics here vary. There are classes that are difficult, and uphold the Santa Clara reputation. But there's many that all the students know are there to pad your GPA so that the hard classes don't get to you. One interesting thing to read if you're considering going here is the article about Stanford students who take Santa Clara physics to get an easy A. Our school claims they're up to par with Stanford, but not all evidence supports that.
Professors absolutely know your name, plus the last grade you got on your test, and where you normally sit in the classroom.
Best class: Women's Spirituality was awesome. I thought it would be a bunch of girls in there, but the class was half male half female. That professor challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone and be open to deep discussions in class.
Worst class: A Sociology class that was taught by a brand new professor...she is no longer at Santa Clara.
My homework load: about 3 hours a day
Students' study habits are pretty personal. Some majors have to study more than others. Bio and Chem majors are always studying!!
Students aren't that competitive (at least in Arts and Sciences). The curve isn't that big of a deal. And it's lame if someone tries to see your grade on your paper (that's frowned upon).
I am a psychology major and have been able to be a research assistant in my major. The experience was time consuming, but it's a great way to work closely with an awesome professor.
Some schools are "marriage readiness schools". SCU is not one of them. Spring of senior year SCU students are worrying about which job offer to accept...not who they're going to spend the rest of their life with. (Don't get me wrong, students have meaningful relationships...but it's not common for a SCU student to be married or engaged before graduation).
One of the more favorable aspects about classes at SCU is that every single professor you'll ever have will know your name. What's more is if you have a question, they'll actually answer it. Crazy, right?! What's also really comforting is office hours --professors always have really long office hours, and the ones that have taught me have repeatedly asked their students to see them during their office hours if they have any questions. I strongly recommend abusing these office hours -- it's really beneficial for teachers to get to know you outside of the classroom. I even had lunch with a Professor once last quarter.
SCU offers a wide variety of classes, most of which are very interactive and often out-of the box. I am visiting a Buddhist Temple at 3 o'clock today, for example, for my 8 am religion class. (GUYS-- don't sign up for 8 am classes. it's just TOO early. even if you think you can handle it, you can't. Haha, trust me.)
The great thing about college in general is that your education fits you as an individual. If you want to skate through college and find all the loop holes, fine. you can do that here. But if you are a serious student (and most at SCU are) then the classes and professors you take can give you the right amount of challange so that education is enjoyable and exciting, but not so much that your brain turns to mush at the end of each day.
Professors at SCU will definitely notice if you miss their class. I have never had a class larger than 38 students and those are always CORE classes (classes that fill requirements for students). Professors care if you miss their class and will email you if you make a habit of doing it.
The load is heavier than most schools because we are on the quarter system - which means that rather than a 16 week semester, we have 10 week quarters (3 of them - most students take summer quarter off). Of course, the course load depends on the course (and also your strength in the subject - obviously, if you are a Math major an introductory math class may not require as much effort from you as an upper division English course). So far, all my courses have required a fair amount of work and has been very manageable. Professors are always good about offering extensions if necessary.
Santa Clara students often discuss their classwork outside of class because usually freshmen take 2 classes with members from their RLC (or Residential Learning Community). This helps you meet people in your RLC and also means you have papers due at the same time. So everyone is able to bounce ideas off each other.
The students are not competitive with each other. If you need help editing a paper - people will be glad to help you. Although, they are not competitive, SCU students take their work seriously.
One of the most interesting aspects of SCU academics is the core - this is a series of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to get a degree (in addition to the requirements of your desired major). Some students dislike the core, and because of it, you will probably be forced to take some class that you may not like to take (for example: my biggest weakness throughout high school was math, and I do have to take a math class for the core). However, there are several ways to do these requirements. It is not as though you are forced to take certain classes. You can pick which course you want to use to fulfill a requirement from a list of courses that fill that requirement. There are several options.
Also, if you are not sure what you want to major in or "undeclared", the core helps students find what they want as a major. A fair number of SCU students come to SCU and are undeclared. All of these students are firm believers in the core.
Although I was declared Classical Studies when I applied to SCU and I dislike math, I am a firm believer in the core as well. I think it is important to have a background in a wide variety of subjects as a college student. Plus, because of the core, I have discovered some subjects that I never would have looked into before and they were surprisingly interesting, such as Christian Traditions. Santa Clara Students are required to take 3 religious courses (not necessarily in Catholicism - there are several options). I -may- have taken a class on Christianity at this school, but I probably would not have if it was not a requirement. I ended up LOVING the course and loving the Professor. It was completely worthwhile. Several other students have had similar experiences because of the core.
Every professor has been here for me in office hours, or before and after class, to help me with any questions, or any help I may need. I have never been so overwhelmed by how much everyone here wants to help you be successful in their classes. One of my favorite classes so far was my Literature and Democracy class. It was upper-division and pretty difficult, but class discussions were absolutely stimulating. My classes have never had a student count over 40, and in this particular class, there were no more than 12 or 15. Students can be competitive, but mostly only if they are taking law courses. The education here is all for the student. Each student who graduates Santa Clara University comes out with knowledge of the world and themselves, ready to tackle life, jobs, internships, etc. Our career center makes a point of getting the job searching started as freshmen.
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